Author: Liza Ketchum
Concepts: jobs, discrimination, scarcity, human resources, natural resources, equal rights
Review: Her mother may not have liked it, but twelve-year-old Amelia Forrester had an extraordinary streak of independence and a sense of adventure. These traits certainly came in handy when the two of them, accompanied by their dear friend Estelle Duprey, arrived in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush to make new lives for themselves. Upon disembarking from the ship, they felt dazed, hungry, and dead-tired, and to make matters worse, they were homeless and had left all their friends and family behind in Massachusetts. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Amelia immediately figured out that she could make a few quick dollars by selling the Boston newspapers they had used for packing, so off she went in search of a few customers and a cart for their luggage.
It did not take long for Amelia to learn that most of San Francisco's residents were men. Not only did she take chances with her physical safety when roaming the busy streets by herself, but she was also spurned in her efforts to earn money because of her gender. Cutting her hair short and wearing boys' clothes, however, opened up a whole new set of opportunities, which included not only walking about more freely and selling newspapers, but also assisting in the launch of an air balloon. Of course she had no way of knowing that the launch would lead to adventure and danger in California's gold mines, and ultimately, to a real job.
In this engrossing work of historical fiction, Liza Ketchum skillfully weaves together an account of life in Sam Francisco's gold-rush days with a description of women's quest for equal rights during the early years of the women's movement. Discrimination not only against women, but also against the Chinese living in San Francisco, represents just one of many examples of how these two overlapping themes motivate the storyline and contribute to the character development. Newsgirl gets high marks for its vivacious female protagonist, exciting plot, and rich substantive content.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children